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With many points of likeness, there are also some points of unlikeness in the two miracles. Here the people had continued with the Lord three days, but on the former occasion nothing of the kind is noted; the provision too is somewhat larger, seven loaves and a few fishes, instead of five loaves and two fishes ; as the number fed is somewhat smaller, four thousand now instead of the five thousand then; and the remaining fragments in this case fill but seven baskets, while in the former they had filled twelve.! Of course the work, considered as a miraculous putting forth of the power of the Lord, in each case remains exactly the
At first it excites some surprise that the disciples, with that other miracle fresh in their memories, should now have been as much at a loss how the multitude should be fed as
east of the lake and of Jordan. In some maps, in Lightfoot's for instance, Magdala is placed at the S.E. of the lake ; but this is a mistake, passages which he himself quotes from Jewish writers (Chorograph. 76), showing plainly that it was close to Tiberias. It is most probably the modern El-Madschdel, lying on the S.W. of the lake, and in the neighbourhood of the city just named. So Greswell, Dissert. vol. ii. p. 324; Winer, Realwörterbuch, s. v. Magdala ; Robinson, Biblical Researches, vol. iii. p. 278.
| All four Evangelists, in narrating the first miracle, describe the baskets which were filled with the remaining fragments as ropivovs, while the two who relate the second no less agree in using there the term on vpiðaç. That this variation was not accidental is clear from our Lord's after words ; when referring to the two miracles, He preserves
the distinction, asking his disciples how many kopírove on the first occasion they gathered up; how many on vpiðaç on the second (Matt. xvi. 9, 10; Mark viii. 19, 20). What the distinction was, is more difficult to say. The derivation of κόφινος from κόπτω (= αγγείον πλεκτόν, Suidas), and σπυρίς from σπείρα, does not help us, as each points to the baskets being of wicker-work; see, however, another derivation of onvpis in Greswell (Dissert. vol. ii. p. 358), and the distinction which he seeks to draw from it. Why the Apostles should have been provided with the one or the other has been variously explained. Some say, to carry their own provisions with them, while they were travelling through a polluted land, such as Samaria. Greswell rather supposes, that they might sleep in them, so long as they were compelled to lodge sub dio ; and quotes Juvenal (Sat. iii. 13): Judæis, quorum cophinus fonumque supellex; cf. Martial (Epigr. v.7), who mockingly calls the Jews cistiferos. It appears from Acts ix. 25 that the on vpiç might be of size sufficient to contain a man: compare Blunt, Undesigned Coincidences, 1847, p. 271.
they were before. Yet this surprise rises out of our ignorance of man's heart, of our own heart, and of the deep root of unbelief which is there. It is evermore thus in times of difficulty and distress. All former deliverances are in danger of being forgotten ;' the mighty interpositions of God's hand in former passages of men's lives fall out of their memories : each new difficulty appears as one from which there is no extrication; at each recurring necessity it seems as though the wonders of God's grace are exhausted and have come to an end. God may have divided the Red Sea for Israel, yet no sooner are they on the other side, than because there is no water to drink, they murmur against Moses, and count that they must perish for thirst, crying, 'Is the Lord among us, or not' (Exod. xvii. 1-7)? or, to adduce a still nearer parallel, God had once already covered the camp with quails (Exod. xvi. 13), yet for all this even Moses himself cannot believe that He will provide flesh for all that multitude (Num. xi. 21, 22). It is only the man of a full-formed faith, a faith such as Apostles themselves at this time did not possess, who argues from the past to the future, and truly derives confidence from God's former dealings of faithfulness and love (cf. 1 Sam. xvii. 34-37 ; 2 Chron. xvi. 7, 8).
Nothing but a strange unacquaintance with the heart of man could have made any find evidence here of inaccuracy and general untrustworthiness in the records of our Lord's life; arguing, as some have done, that the disciples, with the experience of one miracle of this kind, could not on a second occasion have been perplexed how the wants of the multitude should be supplied ; that we have here therefore evidence of a loose tradition, which has told the same event twice over. Or, looking at the matter from another point of view, could it not easily have happened that the disciples, perfectly re
1 Calvin: Quia autem similis quotidie nobis obrepit torpor, eo magis cavendum est ne unquam distrahantur mentes nostræ a reputandis Dei beneficiis, ut præteriti temporis experientia in futurum idem nos sperare doceat, quod jam semel vel sæpius largitus est Deus.
membering how their Master had once spread a table in the wilderness, and fully persuaded that He could do it again, might still have doubted whether He would choose a second time to put forth his creative might ;-whether there was in these present multitudes that spiritual hunger, which was worthy of being met and rewarded by this interposition of divine power; whether they too were seeking the kingdom of heaven, and were thus worthy to have all other things, those also which pertain to this lower life, to the supply of their present needs, added unto them. But such earnest seekers, for the time at least, they were; as others had faith to be healed, so these had faith to be fed ; and the same bounteous hand which fed the five thousand before, fed the four thousand now.
1 It is at least an ingenious allegory which Augustine proposes, namely that these two miracles respectively set forth Christ's communicating of Himself to the Jew and to the Gentile ; that as the first is a parable of the Jewish people finding in Him the satisfaction of their spiritual need, so this second, in which the people came from far, even from the far country of idols, is a parable of the Gentile world. The details of his application may not be of any very great value; but the perplexity of the Apostles here concerning the supply of the new needs, notwithstanding all that they had already witnessed, will then exactly answer to the slowness with which they themselves, as the ministers of the new Kingdom, did recognize that Christ was as freely given to, and was as truly the portion of, the Gentile as the Jew. This sermon the Benedictine Edd. relegate to the Appendix (Serm. lxxxi.), but the passage about Eutyches may easily be, indeed evidently is, an interpolation; and the rest is so entirely in Augustine's manner, that I have not hesitated to refer to it as his. Hilary had before him suggested the same: Sicut autem illa turba quam prius pavit, Judaicæ credentium convenit turbæ, ita hæc populo gentium comparatur.
26. THE OPENING THE EYES OF ONE BLIND AT
MARK viii. 22-26,
St. . portant features have occurred and have been treated of elsewhere. As the Lord took that other sufferer, of whom the same Evangelist alone keeps a record, aside from the multitude' (vii. 33), even so · He took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town;' and with the same moisture from his own mouth wrought his cure. The Lord, as was so often his custom, veiling more or less the miraculous in the miracle, links on his power to means already in use among men ; working through these means something higher than they could themselves have produced, and clothing the supernatural in the forms of the natural. Thus did He, for example, when He bade his disciples to anoint the sick with oil,-—one of the most esteemed helps for healing in the East (Mark vi. 13; cf. Jam. v. 14). Not the oil, but his word, should heal; yet without the oil the disciples might have found it too hard to believe in the power which they were exerting,-those who could only be healed through their faith, to believe in the power which should heal them. So the figs laid on Hezekiah’s boil were indeed the very remedy which a physician with only natural appliances at command would have used (Isai. xxxviii, 22; cf. 2 Kin. ii. 20, 21); yet now, hiding
| Bengel: Cæco visum recuperanti lætior erat aspectus cæli et operum divinorum in naturâ, quam operum humanorum in pago.
itself behind this nature, clothing itself in the forms of this nature, an effectual work of preternatural healing went forward,
The circumstance which most distinguishes this miracle is the progressive character of the cure. This, it is true, is not itself without analogies in other cases, as in that of the man blind from his birth, who only after he had washed in Siloam,
came seeing' (John ix. 7); yet the steps of the progress are marked with greater emphasis here than in any other instance. For, first, after the Lord “had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, He asked him if he saw aught. And he looked
ир, and said, I see men, as trees, walking. Certain moving forms he saw about him, but without the power of discerning their shape or magnitude,—trees he should have accounted them from their height, and men from their motion. But the good Physician leaves not his work unfinished: * After that He put his hands again upon his eyes,” and made him look up; and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.'
Chrysostom and others find the explanation of this gradual cure, in the imperfection of this blind man's faith. Proof of this imperfection they see in the fact, that, while others in a like calamity did themselves beseech the Lord that He would open their eyes, this man was brought to Him by others, as one who himself scarcely expected a benefit. The gracious Lord, who would not reject, but who could as little cure, so long as there was on his part this desperation of healing, vouchsafed to him a glimpse of the blessing, that He might
1 In Cheselden's interesting account (Anatomy, p. 301, London, 1768) of the experience of one who, having been blind from his birth, was enabled to see, a curious confirmation of the truthfulness of this narrative occurs: When he first saw, he knew not the shape of any thing, nor any one thing from another, however different in shape or magnitude; but being told what things were, whose forms he before knew from feeling, he would carefully observe, that he might know them again.'
Chemnitz (Harm. Evang. 84): Manus imponit ut ostendat carnem suam esse instrumentum per quod et cum quo ipse ó Aóyog æternus omnia opera vivificationis perficiat.